Best Drumsticks For Beginners – A Guide To The Perfect First Pair

Finding the right drumsticks can be as important as finding the right drum set as they differ vastly depending on how and what you intend to play. Sticks are unfortunately often underlooked as people tend to focus more on finding the perfect drum set or on their cymbal set-up, neglecting or not even registering the importance of the right sticks. Nearly all kits that you buy that come with sticks, will give you some fairly basic stock 5A stock sticks. You could end up with a brand new $1000 drum set, configured and tuned to perfection but then when the sticks hit the head it just doesn’t sound right. Instead of kicking over the cymbals and leaving a foot size hole in the bass drum, check what is in your hands first! Unless your kit came with Vic Firth sticks or similar, we would nearly always recommend buying some new pairs, they are cheap and make a big difference.

There is no one size fits all, so if you pick the wrong ones if may feel like you’re trying to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The ‘best drumsticks for beginners’ is largely dependent on your needs and your style. As someone new to drumming, the number of choices and options may seem daunting, so hopefully this guide will break it down and give you the knowledge to make an informed choice. All the information on ‘What to Consider’ is after the reviews as we appreciate this isn’t new information to some of you. So if you already know about tapers, tips and all the rest then carry on to our reviews, otherwise head down to the bottom for more information on what to look for.

 

Best Drumsticks for Beginners

We are going to break down the reviews into categories and genres to make your life simple, so if you are looking for the best drumsticks for jazz, for rock, or for electronic drums, or a host of other specialist sticks then we have reviewed these separately further down. After the reviews, we explain in detail what to look for in good sticks to save you having to trawl through all that when all you want is some sticks for your brand new acoustic kit.

 

Best Marching Snare Sticks

Playing snare in a marching band means you will have different percussive requirements to other drummers, not only in the drum choice but also the sticks. You will want a thick shoulder and long taper as you will want the mass to be pushed to the front. This will give you great bounce and ping-shots. So here are the best marching drumsticks:

 

Vic Firth Corpsmaster Signature Snare — Colin McNutt

 

If you know anything about drumming then you will know that Vic Firth are top dogs when it comes to drumsticks and will be popping up a lot in these reviews, so it will be no surprise that they are heading up our snare stick list. Perfect for marching line, these sticks have a beautiful balance point, quick response and rebound at all dynamic levels. Nice non-painted finish.

Specs:

  • Feature an oval tip with a medium-long taper providing great balance with quick response at all dynamic levels
  • Honey hickory
  • Length: 17″
  • Diameter:  .690″
  • Oval tip

 

 

 

Innovative Percussion IPLD Lalo Davila Concert Snare Hickory

 

Sandwiched in between Vic Firths is this wonderful pair of concert styled snare drumsticks designed with the beginning snare drummer in mind. If you a playing snare for a school band or just in general, these high-performance concert sticks are perfect. The long taper allows for beautifully even downstrokes and barrel-shaped bead creates a full sound quality at any dynamic level. Thinner than other snare sticks these are great for beginners, especially those with smaller hands. The slightly longer taper provides increased response and excellent balance and you can really feel the rebound with these sticks. Rudiments become a piece of cake with these as they do most of the work for you!

Specs:

  • Heartwood hickory
  • Barrel-shaped bead
  • Long taper
  • Length: 16-3/8″
  • Diameter: .635

 

Vic Firth Mike Jackson Signature

 

Finishing off our list is another pair of Vic Firth’s corpsmaster signature sticks. This front heavy thick pair is designed with durability in mind. They will be able to endure heavy rolling and produce beefy rim shots. The design combined with Vic Firth’s quality makes them the perfect marching sticks for beginners. 

The reverse taper pushes the mass to the front so it is heftier at the front-end and thinner by the grip. This design pushes more of the mass towards the front of the stick, which gives you more overall volume with each stroke. The large oval tip is well balanced and gives you a real fat, dense sound. With this stick you get great rebound, sound and longevity.

Specs:

  • Strong, Responsive Hickory
  • Long Tapers
  • Oval Beads
  • Length: 17″
  • Diameter: 0.740″
  • Reverse Taper

 

Best Drumsticks for Jazz

Never has it more been the case that there are no best sticks, better-suited ones, yes, but we can’t tell you which will be the best for you and you will just have to experiment until you find the right ones. Jazz is about subtlety (as we have waxed lyrical in our article about the best jazz drum kit for beginners) so you will want lighter sticks such as 7As. If as a beginner you find these too thin then you may want to look at maple sticks, they are a lighter wood than hickory so you can get 6As or possibly 5As without feeling the weight. There is much debate as to whether wood or nylon tips are better and again it is subjective. We find with wood that you get a darker sound, although they will chip more easily which as a beginner can be very annoying.

 

Vic Firth Signature Series – Peter Erskine Ride Stick (SPE2)

 

We think these sticks are a thing of beauty, made to roll on the ride with an extra long taper, a teardrop wood tip for enhanced cymbal response and beefed up shaft for extra power. Created by one of jazz drumming’s greatest talents Peter Erskine, you can see he has applied his skill and understanding with these sticks. The long taper and back-heavy design give these sticks some of the best rebound on the market. Despite being lighter than 5As and having wood tips, they appear to be able to take quite a beating and don’t feel like they’ll chip any time soon, although that is not to say they would hold up if you started playing metal with them! The shape of the tip lends itself to a very articulate, delicate sound to cymbals, particularly the ride. Overall these are the best jazz drumsticks for beginners who are happy with wood tips.

Spec:

  • Length: 16″
  • Diameter: 0.575″
  • An extra long taper and tear drop tip for enhanced cymbal response.
  • Hickory small wood tip
  • Light and fast
  • Above average rebound

 

 

Vic Firth American Classic Jazz 8DN

 

First off, as a beginner having nylon tips will probably save you a fair bit of money over the first 6 months as unlike wood tips they won’t be chipping all the time. More importantly, the sticks are well balanced and have good rebound. As always with Vic Firth you get consistency – all their sticks are sanded perfectly, don’t splinter and hold up well. The nylon tips result in these sticks being brighter than their wood tipped counterparts although they don’t lose the balance or sacrifice the feel of wood tips. They are very much like the 7As apart from having more reach which we feel provides for wonderful control and dynamics.

Specs:

  • Length: 16″
  • Diameter: 0.540″
  • Nylon Tip

 

 

 

Vic Firth American Jazz 6 (AJ6)

The final pair is produced by, surprise surprise, Vic Firth. This these thin, delicate sticks are quite possibly the best light jazz sticks. Subtle and balanced, these sticks make for unbelievable single stroke rolls on the cymbals. Developed for the player who is looking for ultimate rebound on the drums and cymbals, the AJ6 has the smallest wood tip of the series and combined with the sizable enough neck it creates dark cymbal sounds whilst keeping everything focused. With a thin diameter and small head, they are perfect for the light touch and are immaculately balanced and precise. With a velvety ping and dark subdued wash, you won’t find subtler sticks than these.

Specs:

  • Length: 15.5″
  • Diameter: .550″
  • Tip: Wood Tear Drop
  • Material: Hickory

 

 

Best Drumsticks for Rock

Depending on how hard you are going at it, then 5As will be perfect for you or a 5B if need be. If you are a heavy hitter and playing say punk rock then you may want to switch on to 3As but again 5B should be fine.

 

Promark PW747W Japanese Shira Kashi White Oak Neil Peart Autograph Model

 

Kicking off our list are the Promark Shira Kashi’s. The dense and heavy wood provides a sturdy feel, excellent articulation and exceptional durability. They are not as thick as the 5Bs or 2Bs in the same series, nor any other of this sticks on our rock list, so you will get a real sense of balance with them. They are the same thickness as the 5As but slightly longer so we really feel that they are good for hard-hitting but more rounded than your usual rock and metal sticks. They are the perfect balance for strong hard hitting whilst retaining balance and control and are all round incredible sticks. Despite the wood tips these will not chip away and should last you a long time even with the not-yet-perfected technique of a rookie.

Specs:

  • Diameter: .551″
  • Length: 16 1/4″
  • Oval wood tip provides a dark, warm tone suited for multiple applications
  • Medium taper for balanced response and rebound

 

 

Vater VH5BW 5B Wood Tip Hickory

 

These sticks by Vater are thick, heavy-hitters, perfect for a beginner who really wants to lay into their set. You can choose between nylon and wood but wood is our preference for sound but nylon for durability. The rest of the series is incredible too and we would suggest checking out the Vater 5As and 7A if the 5Bs don’t feel right but start with the 5Bs, as they are strong all-rounders for rock. These sticks project, they are resilient and have impeccable response. As well as this they are balanced. You won’t find these front heavy like some of the Promarks. All in all these as the perfect sticks for a rookie rocker.

Specs:

  • Wood acorn Tip
  • Size: 5B
  • Very responsive, comfortable and balanced stick
  • L 16″
  • D .605″

 

 

Vic Firth American Classic 5B

We couldn’t have a top 3 without at least one pair of Vic Firths, right? American Classic 5Bs are possibly the perfect rock sticks for a first-time player. These are classics through and through, made for big hands and hard hitting, these sticks can withstand the trials and tribulations of rock and take a real good bashing. They really are the All-American classics. The wooden tear drop tip is nice for a beginner, it is warm and versatile with plenty of response but it doesn’t get in the way of really going for it. They are more comfortable than the 7As and more durable than the 5As. Overall they are pretty balanced, feel good and are definitely Vic Firth quality.

Spec:

  • Length: 16″
  • Diameter: 0.595″
  • Wooden Tear drop tip

 

 

Best Drumsticks for Metal

We have assumed if you are reading this then you are trying to release the soul of the drum by beating the head until it breaks. For metal, you will want to get yourself a pair of 2B or 3As. You will have a choice between nylon and wood and whilst eventually we would say go for wood as it sounds better, whilst starting up nylon is preferable as it will chip less. Here’s are top 3 hand-held beasts:

 

Vic Firth Signature Series – Danny Carey

 

These are some of our favorite Vic Firth sticks and not just for this genre, but overall. Between the taper at the grip and the perfectly balanced design, these sticks are a heavy hitters dream. Despite their monster diameter at the butt and the shaft, they are surprisingly comfortable, some of this is due to the cut-in design at the gripping areas, which also stops slipping if your hands get sweaty. The teardrop tip means you get great dynamic versatility whether you want to make the drums shout or hit the subtle ghost notes. The tapered butt really gives the sticks an incredible balance. These are the sort of sticks that once you have used them it will be hard to ever use anything else!

Specs

  • Features a cut-in design at the gripping area for improved comfort
  • Tapered butt end
  • Length: 16 1/2″
  • Diameter at butt: .695″
  • Diameter at shaft: .630″
  • Wood tear drop tip

 

 

Vater Fatback 3A Nylon Tip Hickory Drum Sticks (VH3AN)

 

These sturdy sticks are perfect for heavy rock and metal, especially as a beginner. They are extremely durable and with the nylon tips they won’t chip. The nylon also gives you a cleaner cymbal sound in our opinion, whilst the barrel shape means, combined with the solid neck and shoulder means that you can get some serious volume out of these with great rebound. The .590″ diameter means that they are thick, but not so thick that they are going to tire your arms too fast. They are also a tiny bit shorter in length than typical sticks, giving you more control and making them very dynamic and speedy. They are symmetrical, balanced and whilst they will feel big in your hands at first they are easy to adjust to and not look back.

Specs:

  • Nylon barrel tip
  • L 16″
  • D .590″

 

Promark Japanese Shira Kashi White Oak 2B 

 

These sticks are beasts through and through. With Promarks signature quality, these sticks are short and have a quick taper for more forward balance with less rebound. With a .630” diameter these may feel a bit big in your hands but you will adjust and these will really build up your endurance.

Specs:

  • Shira Kashi Oak is a dense and heavy wood providing a sturdy feel, excellent articulation, and exceptional durability.
  • Diameter: .630″ Length: 16″
  • Oval wood tip provides a dark, warm tone suited for multiple applications

 

 

 

 

Best Drumsticks for Electronic Drums

There is some debate on if you should use special rubber tips for playing on an e-kit. This is not necessary as you can (and in fact should) use regular acoustic sticks so that you are familiar with the weight and feel for when you play acoustically. The tips will not leave marks on your kit, although there are arguments to say that you may want to avoid nylon tips as they can wear down the pads over time. Whilst others say if using mesh heads then avoid wood as the splinters from wood tips get in the heads. As such we won’t be reviewing any sticks, just find a pair of wood tip sticks that suit your style and go with them!

 

What To Consider?

There are few factors to consider when looking for drumsticks which are:

  1. Numbers and letters
  2. Material
  3. The Tip
  4. Thickness
  5. Length

Numbers and letters

You may have noticed when browsing for sticks that they have a number and letter next to them, for example, 5A, 5B, 7A. This comes from the traditional method of classifying the drumsticks.

These numbers run from 1 to 9 but conventional sticks will be either 2, 3, 5 or 7. These numbers represent the circumference of the sticks, with the higher the number it is, the narrower and therefore usually lighter it is. So, for example, a 7A will be thinner than a 5A.

The letters you will most commonly see are A, B and S. These originally represented the type of application they were intended for, so:

A was for Orchestra – used for softer playing, which is popular for jazz as they are thinner than the B.

B was for Band – thicker than A, thinner than S, a really solid starting stick. Students will usually start their drumming journey using 2Bs if not 5As.

S is for Street. You will see these used in marching bands as they were the largest sticks and the best to project the loudest sound. ‘S’ sticks are fairly uncommon these days. The evolution of the drum and its quality means that there is no need for the traditional marching sticks. As well as this innovations like heavier materials and nylon tips have made S stick fairly obsolete.

(As a side – why A and not O for orchestra we hear you ask? Good question. Rumour has it the manufacturer William Ludwig preferred the aesthetic of the A as opposed to the displeasing O!)

It is important to note that these were the original designations and whilst these letters and numbers will usually hold true, they will differ between manufacturers and in fact, many modern-day companies will not conform to the naming designations of old, opting to use their own and offering a large range of specialized sticks. If you see something a little out there such as a CCC or an 85A, there will normally be a stick comparison chart so you can compare them against the conventional range.

What is the best for wood drumsticks?

Again it depends on what you are looking for. The most common woods are:

  • Maple – The lightest of the woods, it is a lower density and best for lower volume situations. It produces a sweet and brighter sound than Hickory and is great for fast, light playing.
  • Hickory – The most popular of the sticks, a great all-rounder. It is more durable and rigid than maple. It is is denser and heavier than maple giving it great impact resistance, which ultimately reduces the shock to the hands and wrist and so reduces fatigue.
  • Oak – It is exceptionally dense. It makes for thick clear hits and a brash cymbal sound. Durable but can break without warning.
  • Laminated Birch – Another heavy hitter. Heavy and durable they produce very deep sounds from the drums and cymbals.
  • Persimmon – A very strong hardwood and very durable. Due to its scarcity and premium nature, it is not so ubiquitous. You would usually see them used for concert snare.
  • Carbon Fibre – So technically not a wood but they have been made to feel like the genuine thing and are incredibly durable, such that they will significantly outlast any wooden stick. Made from an advanced aerospace-grade composite. The only downside of these are that they are a fair bit more expensive than their wooden counterparts and there tend to be more limited models (ie not the whole number and letter range).

It is not only wood that sticks are made of, there are some synthetic sticks such as aluminum and as mentioned above carbon fiber. Aluminum sticks are very durable and have great rebound, but some players have described them as having an unnatural feel.

The Tip:

The tip, both the shape and the material, critically affects the overall sound you will produce. The size, shape and material will all alter how the drum and cymbals are struck and respond. The most common tip types are:

  • Teardrop: Warm tone and ranges from tight to diffuse depending on how they are held.
  • Acorn/ Mushroom: Crisp, clear and warm with a focused medium sustain.
  • Round/Ball: Clean and crisp, a very focused sound ranging from a tense ping to the fuller sounds of large round tips. Great for cymbals. Common with jazz and snare drumming.
  • Barrel: A more diffuse and punchy sound. It is less focused, but richer and rounder, with a longer sustain.
  • Oval:  A well-rounded tip, warm tone and great bounce. Soft tone and light feel.

The materials are:

  • Wood: The most common. They produce a full and balanced sound and your specific wood will affect the warmth and darkness of the tone.
  • Nylon: Extremely crisp tones, excellent for cymbals and perfect for electronic drum kit, especially the higher end kits with mesh heads.
  • Dual-Tone – Has a felt ball on the butt end of the stick which allows the player to quickly switch to soft cymbal rolls.

Thickness, Length, Taper and Surface Coating:

By this point you are probably pulling your hair out and thinking about packing it all in. So, not wanting to turn you off the drums before you even pick up a stick, we will keep this next bit brief:

  • Thickness – the thinner stick plays faster and produces a lighter sound. Thicker will mean projection and heavier hitting.
  • Length – Two sticks of the same thickness will produce a different sound if a different length. A longer stick will feel more powerful and front heavy.
  • Taper – From shoulder to neck of the stick, basically the bit where it narrows near the tip. It will affect the feel and balance and can cause it to feel front or back heavy. A longer taper allows a faster response and more flex, on the other hand, you would lose power and durability which is not what you want if you’re a big hitter.
  • Grip – Range from Laquer-less, heavy lacquer to grip finish and will affect the feel of the stick as well as how well you can hold on when you are really letting loose. 

2B or not 2B

Ok, we are done, with bad jokes and information about drumsticks. There is actually a lot more to be said on the matter but as a beginner, this will do. We don’t want you to quit before you have even picked up the sticks (even if they were the ideal sticks matched perfectly to your style).  Whilst we have looked at our favorites based on the different styles of playing, ultimately only you will know your perfect sticks once you have tried them out. They aren’t expensive so feel free to try a few pairs out.

We would strongly recommend that you go to the music store and give them ago before buying them! Everyone has their own preferences and no guide, no matter how thorough and excellently written, will be able to tell you how the sticks feel in your hand or when rolling on a ride.